Conquest Mode has been a huge success since it was introduced in late 2014. We have seen it implemented in premier tournaments such as the Kinguin Pro League, Hearthstone World Championship, ESL, and many others. My motivation for this post is to help new and upcoming players who would like to start competing in qualifiers and tournaments. Moreover, I also hope it will give the more experienced players some new perspectives on Conquest Mode.
My arguments will, from time to time, be subjective and based on my experience competing in tournaments. My tournament experience includes: Viagame 2 Qualifier, Gfinity Summers Master 2 Qualifier, Open ONOG Summer Circuits, ASUS ROG, as well as minor weekly tournaments like Strivewire, Weekly Monday Night, among others. I have previously written another article on Reddit related to Conquest Mode that focused on how to play it strategically. This included advice on which deck you should open with; when to change classes to achieve a better win-rate; and other related issues. I highly encourage you to read it before you dive into this article. This piece focuses on deck building as well as choosing the decks that create a synergistic effect for your play style.
Before we dive into it, let us just clarify what Conquest Mode entails:
- A player must win one game with each deck.
- When a player wins a game, the deck used by the winning player cannot be used for the rest of the match.
- The losing player can keep the same deck used or switch to a different one of their choice.
From my point of view, I see three solid approaches around building decks in relation to Conquest Mode: Individual Strategy, Familiar Strategy, or Focus Strategy. Let me try to explain each of these three strategies and discuss the pros and cons of each of them.
Individual Strategy is about choosing three solid decks that don’t necessarily have anything in common other than they have a high win rate on their own. An example of this could be Patron Warrior, Handlock, and Midrange Hunter, three of the strongest decks in the current meta. That said, they play completely differently. In regard to the diverse play-styles I often see, people – including myself when I started playing tournaments – struggle to transition from ladder to tournaments because on ladder you normally only grind with one or two decks max.
Let’s say that you are a solid Handlock player who often ends up top 100 Legend on ladder. When it comes to Handlock it's safe to say you know what to mulligan, when to be passive/aggressive, etc, in each match-up. When you are going to a tournament, and need to play another class like Patron Warrior, you might get nervous around what to mulligan for and when to fill your board with Patrons. The playstyle with Patron differs from each match-up and around how each round develops. These are things you learn from playing more than a thousand games with your deck. A good example is when Reynad played in ESL Legendary Series. Reynad is a very solid, professional Hearthstone player who has been a part of the scene since the beginning. Nevertheless, it was quite obvious that the three decks -- Patron Warrior, Tempo Mage, and Midrange Hunter -- he chose weren’t the decks he normally would grind with on ladder. For example, he chose to Time Rewind his own Flamewaker in the finals and there were also some minor mistakes forced during his Patron Warrior stint that occurred through impatience. He finished second in the tournament despite all this which really shows the strength of the Individual Strategy. It is, of course, also important to note that Reynad’s experience and skill on the live stage probably compensated for his misplays.
Nevertheless, I will not recommend that new players use Individual Strategy because it requires a deep understanding of the different match-ups and your skill level with each deck needs to be flawless in the larger tournaments. I will instead recommend Familiar Strategy for new players.
When you are playing three solid decks which have the same overall play style, you are playing Familiar Strategy. An example of this strategy is a combination of Tempo Mage, Eboladin, and Face Hunter. These three decks’ overall purpose is to go FACE! Let’s say that you normally play Face Hunter on ladder, then you know that the right decision normally is to go Face. The same goes for Eboladin and Tempo Mage. Your overall strategy is more or less the same and, therefore, you will rarely end up in a situation where you don’t know what to do. Another advantage is if your opponent plays a deck that is weak against aggressive archetypes: then you can actually beat that deck 3-0.
To build your Familiar Strategy, you need to start out with the deck you feel most comfortable playing: usually the deck you play most on ladder. If we look at my approach the last couple of months on ladder, I have been playing nothing but Druid. I see myself as a highly-skilled Druid player and I also know Druid’s strengths. This is also the first step in the process of building up your Familiar Strategy: to highlight the strengths of your class. The skills I have mastered as a Druid player – besides drawing a Wild Growth in my starting hand – includes gaining board control by:
- Making favorable trades.
- Know when to focus face instead of minions.
- Placement of my minions (Piloted Shredder).
So when utilizing Familiar Strategy, I simply need to find some other decks that have the same approach and focus as my Midrange Druid.
This might be surprising to some, but Demonzoo is actually similar to Druid. Demonzoo is often fighting for the board in the early game. When the mid-to-late game rolls around, the Demonzoo player will start to focus face instead of trades. For these reasons, I have included Demonzoo in my latest tournaments as it suits with my play style. This way, I avoid situations that are out of my comfort zone. This is very important when you are playing live on a large stage. You need to keep calm and your head steady by playing the same style with each deck you can ensure as few misplays as possible.
In some cases, finding two decks that match the strategy of your main deck can be tough. My solution has been to then try and pair with my second choice. Another aspect of Demonzoo is that it is pretty aggressive. It still has mid-to-late game potential, however, with cards like Dr. Boom, Mal’Ganis, and Doomguard. My third Conquest Deck at the moment is Hybrid Hunter. It has the aggressive potential of the Demonzoo in the early game, but still fights for board control to extend its reach with Savannah Highmane in the mid-to-late game.
To sum it up, I am playing these three decks at the moment when it comes to Conquest Mode:
As this small chart illustrates, Druid is my most familiar class. While less commonly played by me, the Zoolock is the deck which holds it all together.
Another example of Familiar Strategy, say you are a very strong Patron Warrior and it is the only class that you play on ladder. You will know and understand its strengths as a combo deck:
- You need to calculate correctly and quickly.
- You are going to cycle your cards so it’s vital to remember which cards remain in the deck.
- You need to think fast because time is not always on your side.
- Patience: You need to wait for the right cards to create the combo before playing your hand.
The next step is, again, to find two similar decks. In this case, we are looking for some combo decks. Two really good combo decks that you could consider are Malylock and Freeze Mage. Malylock’s combo is Malygos-Emperor Thaurissan which creates intense late-game burst with Soulfire and Dark Bomb. Malylock is fighting for board control in the early-to-mid game with cards like Imp Gang Boss, Imp-losion, and Blackwing Corruptor. Like Patron Warrior, the deck has no trouble finding cycling opportunities in form of Mortal Coil, Azure Drake, and the Warlock Hero Power Life Tap.
The play style of the Freeze Mage is almost the same idea. The Mage, of course, keeps control of the board with spells. Moreover, the Freeze Mage has cycling cards like Arcane Intellect, Acolyte of Pain, and Loot Hoarder. Finally, it also has synergy in form of Alexstrasza, followed up with different burst spells. If I were only playing Patron Warrior on ladder and I wanted to expand my horizon by trying my skills in a tournament, I would go with these decks. Of course Rogue could also be an interesting possibility if you don’t like one of the other classes.
If Patron is your main strength you may want to transfer those skills to other combo decks in your lineup.
When you are playing three decks with the purpose of countering a specific class or strategy, you are playing a Focus Strategy. An example occurs when you want to counter Hunters and Tempo Mages: you simply add two Kezan Mystics and two Antique Healbots in each of your decks.As bulletproof as this strategy may sound, it can be pretty risky in an open qualifier where you will meet a lot of diverse opponents and play styles.
Nevertheless, if you are playing a single match-up and you are good at scouting and understanding your upcoming opponent it can be really strong. In Kinguin Proleague, you only played a single match per night. Firebat took advantage of this against Sjow due to the fact that Sjow’s signature deck was Control Warrior at the time. Sjow was actually up in the series 2-0. When only his Control Warrior remained, however, it was countered by Firebat’s decks which ultimately landed Firebat the victory. This shows that Firebat did his research and knew his opponent so the risk of playing Focus Strategy wasn’t that high. My advice is only to play Focus Strategy if you know your opponent, which means show matches and other one-offs, as it is really not that consistent in other formats.